Continued: Keys to
Living 'Happily Ever After' in the College Dorm
When There's a Problem
A big part of the college experience is learning effective confrontational
skills and initiating communication when there are problems. Bradley
says most students don't like to confront others. "Often they try
to live with the problem or ignore it, but it can go too far and
usually someone gets hurt," he says.
Common aggravations include sloppiness, dividing food, visitors,
personal space, music tastes and quiet time. When problems arise,
try to solve them as a room first, Bradley explains. "Don't beat
around the bush or drop hints. Talk as a room, not belittling or
ganging up on anyone. Be factual. Set or reiterate policies. But
if problems persist, you may need to ask the RA to act as a liaison."
However, incompatibility does happen. When you believe it is best
to switch rooms, go through the proper channels with the RA. Be
honest, yet tactful, with your roommates as to why you are leaving.
what their plans are because others could be thinking the same thing,
which could eliminate the problem and you won't have to move," Bradley
says. "Give some advance notice. It's rude to announce at the last
minute you're moving out. It leaves others with guilt, confusion
and a feeling of failure."
Whether it's your first roommate arrangement or your fifth, Bradley
and Santee do have practical advice to make dorm life harmonious.
1) Practice common courtesy when it comes to visitation. Establish
policies or schedules, setting aside nights for quiet and study
time. "This is where having a calendar on the message board really
comes in handy," Bradley emphasizes. "It minimizes surprising the
roommate who comes home at midnight after a full day of classes
and work wanting to get some sleep only to find a party going on.
Planning ahead makes it possible for arranging other places to study
or spend the night."
2) Keep a balance of rights and compromise. Be flexible, but not
at the expense of your studies or health. Honor your roommates'
rights to guests and socializing; after all, they are paying for
the room, too.
3) Express issues and develop tactful, effective confrontation skills.
Such skills will pay off in the future.
4) Whether you or your roommate has a car, set policies on borrowing
the car or giving rides, taking into consideration gas, mechanical
expenses and scheduling.
5) Set a policy about borrowing each other's clothes to avoid problems
when clothing is borrowed without asking.
6) Try not to get caught in the middle of roommates' family issues.
For example, a parent may call seeking "investigative" information
about the roommate or the other parent. Avoid sharing information
that could create tension, leading to further conflict. In most
cases, it's best to refer the parent to a more appropriate person,
such as a college staff member.
As for the state of confusion and bulging dorm room on moving day,
avoid this by contacting your roommates ahead of time to see who
is bringing what (furniture, electronic equipment, recreational
items). Contact the college to determine the size of the room, what
furnishings are provided and number of electrical outlets. Wait
to bring seasonal items such as winter clothes and skis until holiday
breaks to avoid overcrowding.
And remember, you aren't the only one who is homesick, disoriented
or undergoing roommate conflict. There is help available, so seek
it through your RA, housing coordinator or better yet, your roommates!
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